Sean Parker: Beware of 'wackos' on Facebook, other social media

Facebook's founding president discusses what concerns him about the hyperconnected world in which we now live.

Sean Parker on stage at Techonomy Paul Sloan

TUCSON, Ariz.--Sean Parker, a co-founder of Napster and Facebook's first president, said the key thing that worries him about the growth of Facebook and the use of social networks essentially boils down to one word: wackos.

Parker's remarks came up during a conversation at Techonomy here about trade-offs between privacy and empowerment people throughout the world now make, due to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and technology in general.

"The tools can be used for good [or] for evil, and you sort of have to bet that better angels will prevail and will offset mischief," Parker said during a talk moderated by journalist David Kirkpatrick.

In terms of privacy, Parker invoked the Facebook company line. "The standard answer," he said, "is you're choosing to make this information available. It's up to you. You can be extremely smart and clever as how you broadcast it."

He also cautioned people to beware of the ability of companies, government entities, and others to, in effect, snoop on them through social networks.

"In a sense, governments have always used whatever communications mediums are available to conduct surveillance," he said, and those are "far more intrusive than looking at info on social networks."

Even so, he was blunt about the risks. The growth of this newfound "empowerment will lead to fringe cults and groups of isolated wackos. And that's scary--all these Unabomber types isolated in their bedrooms suddenly with the ability to reach similar wackos."

 

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